The Narcissist's Smear Campaign
|Verse of the Day|
© by Gail Meyers
The narcissist's smear campaign involves gossip, lies and slander. You can become the target of a narcissist's smear campaign for numerous reasons. It can be anything from their insane jealousy, to the fact that the narcissist knows you see through their facade, to concealing their abuse or for simply disagreeing with them.
In my experience, the smear campaign is always used by abusers for what they consider premeditated damage control in anticipation of exposure. My alcoholic pedophile step-father used it during the years he sexually abused me, as well as continuing in it once I was an adult. Of course, that was first and foremost to keep me quiet about the abuse. Secondly, it was an attempt to discredit me so no one would believe me should I decide to tell. My narcissistic personality disordered mother used smear campaigns against her scapegoat children, anyone she was jealous of, anyone who attempted to hold her accountable, and anyone who saw through her facade.
The smear campaign may be going on behind your back during your relationship with a narcissist and may accelerate when the relationship ends, regardless of who ended it. Whatever the relationship, the smear campaign is intended to discredit and isolate you, manufacture fear, hurt you and label you as inferior. It is just one more form of intimidation and bullying used by abusive narcissistic manipulators.
This article explores the smear campaign, including real life examples of how smear campaigns were used in combination with other manipulation tactics by my narcissistic personality disordered mother. Options to consider if you are the target of a narcissist's smear campaign are also provided.
What is Gossip?The Oxford Dictionary defines gossip as "casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true." Gossip is speaking about someone, including details that are not confirmed to be true, who is not present to defend themselves. Gossip often involves:
- Slander - lies about a person that cause damage.
- Secretly telling others personal information that may be true, but was trusted to the gossip as private or confidential.
- Backbiting - spreading spiteful information without the person being there to defend themselves.
- Mockery - presenting the gossip in the form of a joke at the expense of the person being discussed.
- Planting seeds of doubt, distrust or discord with lies, innuendo or implication.
The Triangulation of GossipIdeally, when someone has an issue with you, they speak directly to you about it. However, in dysfunctional families and relationships, the person may speak to everyone but you about it. This is triangulation, speaking to a third-party about something that should be addressed directly with the other person involved. Some people may do this out of habit or because they never learned healthier ways to communicate. Some may be concerned by the reaction they might get should the issue be addressed directly. Then there are those who do this intentionally for manipulation, character assassination and smear campaigns.
Let's use the example of Grandmother, Mother and Daughter. Daughter did something Mother did not like, but instead of telling Daughter, Mother tells Grandmother about it. This might be an old habit for Mother and she may not have bad intentions by doing it. She may not even realize the damage it can do unless someone points it out to her. This triangulation can potentially damage Daughter's reputation in Grandmother's eyes while also never giving Daughter the opportunity to address the issue with Mother and come to resolution.
|Echo Scapegoat Recovery Tactics|
What the Bible Says about GossipThe Bible has much to say about gossiping. Here is a sampling of the verses, followed by a brief video on the topic.
- A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. Proverbs 16:28
- There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 6:16-19
- Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Psalms 34:13
- Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure. Psalm 101:5
- They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips. Romans 1:29
- As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him. Titus 3:10
The Smear Campaign Wrapped in Fake ConcernThis is how a narcissist gossips without appearing to be slandering anyone. The narcissist may even be perceived as a concerned, caring person. For example, Narcissist Mother again talks to Grandmother about Daughter. This time Narcissist Mother expresses her great concern to Grandmother about Daughter's fragile emotional state. In reality, Narcissistic Mother is being abusive and Daughter is responding to the abuse, but Narcissistic Mother is using that response as proof of your instability. So in a very real sense, the narcissist uses your reactions of anger, frustration or outrage to their abuse, to cause you to look crazy to other people.
Here, Thomas Sheridan, author of Puzzling People: The Labyrinth of the Psychopath, shares his insight into the smear campaigns of psychopaths in the political arena and the workplace.
The Smear Campaign While Playing the VictimThe narcissist will often use more than one of these manipulation tactics together. For example, this is one of my narcissistic personality disordered mother's favorite maneuvers. She would verbally assault me, then scapegoat by telling everyone I verbally assaulted her while wrapping it all in fake concern. This was her concealing her abuse by playing the victim while vilifying the true victim. She would then tell everyone who would listen how she was verbally assaulted, while imposing the silent treatment on me.
Then at whatever point we spoke again she would gaslight me by rewriting history and claiming I owed her an apology. This is often how she concealed her abuse, garnered pity, and rallied the flying monkeys for abuse by proxy. This is exactly how she destroyed many of my late brother's extended family relationships, too. She also destroyed as many of my relationships as she possible could in this manner. This maneuver is narcissistic crazy-making extraordinaire!
The Smear Campaign to Inflict Abuse By ProxyIn virtually every story my narcissistic personality disordered mother ever told she was either the innocent victim or the hero - or both. For example, take the scenario of Narcissist Mother verbally assaulting Daughter then flipping the tale in her slanderous gossip to portray herself as the innocent victim to Grandmother. This is to build the narcissist up while tearing you down.
Now Narcissist Mother calls her narcissistic supply and flying monkeys to tell all of them this fictitious tale. Flying monkeys is a term taken from the Wizard of Oz in which the flying monkeys did the Wicked Witch's bidding. In the same way, narcissists have flying monkeys and in my mother's case she loved to manipulate them with guilt and pity. So attacking someone, then flipping the tale to portray herself as the innocent victim not only garnered pity for her and harmed her scapegoat, but also called her flying monkeys into action to inflict her abuse by proxy. In other words, she intentionally triangulated in order to manipulate others into doing her bidding.
The Narcissist's Thinking on the Smear CampaignA narcissist does not play fair, but vicious and dirty while telling themselves you deserve it. I am convinced my narcissistic personality disordered mother did not see her behavior as evil, but that she was outsmarting her enemy. So, for example, if a normal healthy person did something devious, backstabbing and vicious, they would likely reflect on it and feel remorse. My narcissistic personality disordered mother never displayed remorse or apologized, even on her deathbed. Instead, there were times, if you were watching for it, you would notice the smirk on her face or the glimmer in her eye. I am convinced it was giving her a rush of feeling superior, as well as satisfaction of thinking she was getting away with it.
The point of the smear campaign is to discredit you while making the narcissist look like the healthy one. It is to keep you quiet and isolated. That way should you decide to attempt to expose the narcissist no one believes you or you look like the hateful or unstable one. Ideally, the narcissist wants everyone on their side leaving you no support or validation.
|Narcissistic Mother's Smear Campaign|
An Average Person's Thinking on the Smear CampaignThe average person who has never dealt with a narcissist often thinks one of a few things. They may very well not have any idea what the narcissist is truly doing until after the damage is done. The person may see hints of the damage or perhaps begin getting what appears to be illogical or negative responses from others. They may have a sense of something being wrong, but not be able to clearly articulate the entire matter. The person may consider what the narcissist is doing to be so petty they will just take the high road by ignoring it.
Whatever the case, I would not wait for the narcissist to have a conscience about their behavior and correct herself. The narcissist is truly playing a different game, and I do think they consider it just that - a game. So while the average healthier person with their own internal controls that will pull them back from such consistent vicious behavior is waiting for the narcissist to realize their behavior is evil or pathetic, the narcissist is feeling smug.
Many of us assume everyone has the same basic set of human emotions we have, but that is a mistake when dealing with a narcissist. It took me time to grasp this even when it was obvious and pointed out to me. It was just difficult for me to grasp that someone could behave in such a manner and view it as brilliance rather than abuse. It is apples and oranges. The narcissist sees it as proof of their superiority, while the healthier person may well see it as pure and simple evil behavior. Keep that in mind as a possibility with the narcissist you are dealing with in your life.
How to Respond to a Smear CampaignHere are a few things I learned the hard way as a result of being the target of smear campaigns at various times in my life:
- Learn to recognize the traits of narcissists and psychopaths, including the high conflict cluster B personality disorders. Some of these personalities are known to fool therapists even, but arming yourself with this information is still empowering. The sooner you are able to spot red flags, the better because you can then back up and look at the bigger picture.
- Learn the common manipulation tactics of narcissists. There may be a nearly infinite number of manipulation tactics, but learning at least the mostly commonly used tactics is empowering. Just being aware of some of the manipulation tactics can make them less effective, as well as greatly reducing the potential confusion they can otherwise cause.
- Build trust in relationships slowly over time and maintain boundaries. If someone does not respect your boundaries, that should send up a red flag.
- Once you realize or suspect you are dealing with a narcissist, seriously consider going no contact.
- If you maintain contact with the narcissist, at the least stop sharing the intimate details of your life and thoughts. In my experience, having a heart-to-heart with a narcissist only results in the information being used against you, often twisted for inclusion in the smear campaign.
- Do not be alone with someone who is directing a smear campaign toward you, at all. For example, my mother reserved her rages for times when there were no witnesses. She was then also able to flip the tale and claim I was the one who attacked her. She would not have gone to that extreme in front of another person, and if she had I would have had a witness.
- Always listen to your instincts or gut feeling even if you are unable to put your finger on the exact reason.
- Some advise others to confront the narcissist with the misinformation, while others advise taking the high road and ignoring it. I can not tell you which option is best for you in your circumstances. Personally, I corrected the information whenever I became aware of it. I also confronted my narcissistic personality disordered mother, which always ended in her raging and revenge. So be prepared for that reaction should you decide to confront a narcissist. Also, confronting the lies with third parties needs to be done in a calm, rational manner. Outbursts and emotional displays are often used by the narcissist to convince others the person they are targeting with their smear campaign is unstable, mentally ill, etc.
- That being said, there was a time I spent time and energy attempting to convince flying monkey extended family members of the truth. It was a total waste of my time and energy, never ending in anything other than frustration. People who love you, will love you regardless of what a narcissist tells them. People who are interested in the truth, will inquire rather than accuse. There are good reasons why the flying monkeys in my extended family were flying monkeys in the first place. I consider it a reflection on them, not me and I have never regretted going no contact with them.
- Refuse to take part in gossip or be part of the smear campaign toward anyone else. This can be difficult and uncomfortable at first if you have a long history of gossiping or if you are in an unhealthy environment, but it is worth the effort. Rather than gobbling up the juicy little morsels a gossip spreads, asking them if they have spoken directly to the person concerned about it will often shut them down. I have also asked questions such as how the person could possibly know such a thing. In my experience, office gossips for example, will quickly learn not to run to you with their gossip if you give any response other than enjoying it and passing it along.
Join the discussion How Do I Survive a Smear Campaign? on Face the Facts: When a Loved One Has Borderline Personality Forum. Join us on Narcissistic Personality Disorder Mother on Facebook.